Blood in the Gutter

It may be nitpicking but I find an issue with his initial premise – that we all must have faith that everything around us exists when we do not. I do understand that he is merely making a point but never the less, I dispute the use of it in general. These sorts of assertions become dangerous the closer the René Descartes’ “Cogito ergo sum” (or, “I think, therefore I am”) you get. McLoud asserts that everything beyond your own sensory perception is subject to question of it’s existence, but why stop there? Who’s to say your senses are any decent indication of reality? The effects of various drugs and mental illness’ alter the sensory perception of the subject, its not that farfetched to say that your existence is actually completely different to the way you perceive it.

Now that my personal objections are out of the way, we can move on to what’s actually being said in the chapter, regarding the existence of negative space and the interaction with said space. Comics are indeed one of the most fragmented media forms in regards to narrative, and therefore require the most active participation (generally) of the audience to use their imagination to fill the gaps and generate meanings. The example used of making the audience drop the axe in their own mind, using their imagination to decide the speed and force of the impact. This occurs in what happens in the ‘gutters’ of the comic panel; the negative space in which action is not portrayed by the artist.

This made me think about the film and cinema experience in a different way. Very powerful ideas can be suggested to the audience in the negative space, what the audience doesn’t see or hear, in the gaps. Horror, thriller, and other suspenseful genres use this a lot, creating a negative sound and/or visual space, which the audience’s mind attempts to fill with their own action. This is orchestrated by the film-maker (a good one leads the audience in the direction they wish to) and may or may not be an accurate reflection of the reality of events in the narrative, as shown in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuarón, 2004)where using the crows and the sound of the axe falling the director leads the audience to believe that Buckbeak has been executed which is later revealed not to be true. Playing with the audiences imagination and participation in understanding the narrative can be very powerful if done well.


Scott McCloud, 1993, ‘Blood in the Gutter’, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (Northampton, MA : Tundra Pub) pages 60-93


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *